Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fan Finds Himself in Middle of Action

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fan Finds Himself in Middle of Action

Article excerpt

MIAMI --

Will Privette doesn't claim to be the biggest Marlins fan. Or the oldest. Or even the loudest.

But Privette, who said he "joined forces" with the Marlins in 2003 while growing up in North Carolina, is the only one who can say he made national news eight months ago in a chaotic scene that was replayed over and over on ESPN and elsewhere.

Privette was the student in the wheelchair who was thrown to the basketball court after fellow classmates at North Carolina State stormed the floor following the Wolfpack's upset victory over Duke - - the same student who was rescued in the nick of time by N.C. State forward C.J. Leslie, who saw him lying on the court, about to be trampled in the melee.

"That was him?" asked Marlins outfielder Juan Pierre.

"That was Will?" asked former Marlins manager Jack McKeon.

Pierre and McKeon had seen the replay endless times, but until it was brought to their attention earlier this week, they never knew it was the same diehard fan they had practically adopted during spring training in 2005.

"Yep, that was me," Privette said.

Privette, 23, became a Marlins fan during the '03 season when he watched the team's Class AA affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats, in his hometown of Zebulon, N.C. His family owned the land where the minor- league team built its ballpark and received 10 season tickets for life as part of the deal.

That '03 Mudcats team spawned two huge pieces on the Marlins' World Series team: Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Both players were called up -- Willis in early May and Cabrera in late June -- and helped spark the Marlins to the wild card.

Despite losing Willis and Cabrera to the big-league club, the Mudcats still won the Southern League title. Privette wheeled himself onto the field and had his photo taken with the players and the championship trophy. It would not be the last time he put himself in the middle of a victory celebration. …

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